Here are some interesting questions to ponder:
- What type of education does it take to understand the Word of God properly? Does it take any? Does it take a lot?
- Is there such a thing as a “divine” personal revelation from God which is imparted to the individual through reading His Word? If so, does this “divine” inspiration trump logic and reasoning skills when it comes to interpreting the syntax and context of a verse?
- What was the purpose of God Almighty giving us the Bible in Ancient Hebrew and Greek when the vast majority of the population of the world are not able to read the original languages, and those who are, do not completely understand every word in the proper sense, regardless of educational backgrounds?
- If the vast majority of humanity cannot read or understand the original Hebrew or Greek texts, does the Lord require all humans to attempt a personal study? If so, does the Lord Almighty care about the fact that technically a “little study” actually causes greater theological delusions opposed to the “complete lack thereof”?
The list goes on and on, but for time’s sake, I don’t mean to elaborate further. My point is that much of these questions are simply unanswerable on a greater level. I would be a fool to think that I could answer any of these questions adequately. Nevertheless, I think they are worth pondering and thinking about. I could debate all day on either the side of the Bible requiring much education or barely any, depending on if we are talking about a deep level or a shallow level. And then if we were to try to define the words “deep” and “shallow” when it comes to interpreting meaning to the Word of God, we could end up going on and on and spend an eternity on a relatively irrelevant debate.
From personal friends of mine, I have witnessed multiple cases where a person will attempt to look something up in the Strong’s and “fix” the KJV or some other translation. But when I look into the issue which is trying to be “fixed”, I can tell that this person was a complete idiot and had no idea what he was talking about. For instance, one time several years ago, a friend of mine Tom attempted to retranslate the verse in Colossians 1:27, which reads, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Tom had memorized hundreds of vocabulary words in Greek. He also knew the textual variants very well for different Greek texts. But Tom never officially studied the grammar or syntax. So, when he saw the Greek in the interlinear, he declared, “In Greek, this actually reads: ‘Christ in you the hope THE glory’ because the word OF is missing.” Now, Tom being in his late 70’s and having many years dedicated to theological research was correct that in the Greek the definite article was attached to the word for ‘glory’ and that there was not a different word for ‘of’ in the Greek original text. What he failed to realize was that the Greek used the genitive case which caused the translation to be “of glory” instead of “the glory.”
In times like these, it would be better for an individual NOT to assert himself as authoritative on minutiae for textual criticism.
Then the question is this: Does zero knowledge go further? And my simple answer is, “probably not.” Then I would say to myself, “Does studying matter?” And I would reply, “Most certainly.”
Then if studying matters and ignorance is the enemy which we are trying to battle, then how can we be certain that we did not go from ignorant to a greater stage of ignorance? Is this possible to be self-aware of?
My friend Tom was in his 70’s when he made this silly error! He was roughly the same age as Socrates when he gave his Apology. Tom had decades of study and research. He had worked for Moody Bible Institute and picked up learning from some pretty high up scholars. Tom himself was exceptionally brilliant in many ways and taught me a lot growing up as a kid. Honestly, if it were not for Tom coming to my family’s Shabbat meetings for a good three years between my 12th and 15th years of life, I probably would not be as knowledgeable myself in many areas of textual criticism and Biblical Studies.
My point is this. Even someone like Tom who is on the highest levels of ‘self-taught’ education can think he knew more than he really did by mistake. The only way I was personally able to catch him on some of these errors was due to my own study of Greek Grammar and syntax, which took many years of my own life. Right now I have already dedicated a constant amount of several days per week of regularly studying the Greek, from 2008 to now. That’s over 12 years. And even now, I don’t claim to be anywhere near the level of William Tyndale, Martin Luther, or John Calvin when it comes to Greek or Latin. My pathway has so far led me back to the university where I have an opportunity to be taught by my Classical Greek professor Dr. Ware who’s a Yale University post-graduate. Having a teacher like this will help me improve a lot faster and go a lot further than before. But here’s my question. Does it take being trained by the world’s greatest Greek scholar in order to properly translate or correct a translation? My answer is that for the most part, YES, it most certainly it does.
The path I am on currently in my studies is narrow. Very few ever get past the kindergarten levels of either Hebrew or Greek. To attempt to be an expert of either or both is something that many who try fail. There are many pianists, but how many people are Bach or Mozart? There are many mathematicians. But how many are Rene Descartes or Sir Isaac Newton? It’s really the same way for Greek or Hebrew or Latin.
So, here is the most disturbing revelation of the entire post. Even after climbing to the heights of Greek and Hebrew, there’s still much of the Bible which won’t ever be ‘figured out’. To claim that being an expert or some kind of genius in languages in order to understand the Bible properly would also be a theological unsound teaching. We might as well not even have an English Bible if it was necessary to read the original in order to understand it and obey the Lord. At the same time, on the other hand, there are so many confusions and things which the common person won’t understand or get mixed up on.
That’s why people go down the road of Divine Revelations. And people imagine the Lord or Holy Spirit giving them divinations of the Greek or Hebrew. People will tell their Bible Study Group stories of dreams or revelations which they think is from the Lord or Heaven. But from an honest scholarly review, I would hate to think that the number of these dreams and visions which could accurately hold any value could possibly rank beyond 0.01%.
Does that mean that the Lord doesn’t give dreams and visions? I would hate to claim that the gifts of God have ceased. Nay, I believe that the gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy, etc. are still around in a legitimate form. The only problem which I am personally faced with is this. So far, I have not found a single person who has the legitimate kind of Holy Spirit which gives prophecy and divine knowledge.
I have personally witnessed many people who claim to be empowered by the Most High. But from a reasonable comparison between these claims and the literal understanding of the Scriptures, I find that every single person has fallen beyond measure into unfathomable IGNORANCE which is hardly capable of escaping.
Perhaps, this is the message of the entire issue. Socrates once said, “Only God is wise, and human wisdom is of little or no value” (Apologia, 23a). Socrates goes on to declare, “This one of you, O human beings, is wisest, who, like Socrates, recognizes that he is in truth of no account in respect to wisdom” (Apologia, 23b).
In many ways, my own personal pursuit of study shows me more and more how accurate of an account Socrates’ statement really was. The entire Torah, Prophets, and Gospels are there to show us that we are not wise. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
Perhaps, this is the message which takes getting knocked down a few times to really learn properly. The truth of the matter is that ONLY the Heavenly Father is truly wise and that none of us come anywhere close to this type of wisdom.
Does this mean that we all should “shut up” and “cease to speak” about our personal dreams, visions, and divine revelations for a while? I would have to say, YES! And not only ought we to shut our mouths and keep them closed for a while, but we ought to use our time to focus on finding how to know the voice of the true God and how to differentiate between the false and the true. I don’t think there are very many people who are able to differentiate between God and demonic revelations. I wish this wasn’t the case, but I believe that it is the case, and that very few people are able to hear from the Most High. I have to hope and pray that for those who are true seekers and sincerely are looking for truth that the Truth will be discovered. But honestly, right now, I don’t see this happening anywhere on the face of the earth. Instead, all I see is ignorance: and a very deep ignorance it is!